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Published: 2001/09/19
by Whitney Youngs

‘Happy To Know That Some People Are Mad:’ Mike Rivard and Club d’Elf

One place where you might find jazz aficionados, electronica addicts, hip-hop
enthusiasts and admirers of the Avant-Garde all congregated under one roof is
at a Club d’Elf show—a rare and peculiar performance, featuring a revolving
door of outlandish and well-versed musicians.

"A few aspects make it more of a club than a band," explained d’Elf founder
and bassist Mike Rivard. "There is a sort of hierarchy: the ones who play a
lot with the group are ranked higher than the ones who sit in once or twice
but once a member of the club, always a member."

Since establishing Club d’Elf in 1998, Rivard has observed his collaborative
effort mutate into 40 artists, who contribute their musical expertise to a
consonant aberration within a greenhouse of bizarre and fresh symphonic

"I want the rhythms to come together," said Rivard "A listener expects the
song to continue a certain way but then we come out of left field and sneak
up on the brain."

Since its inception in the town of Cambridge, Mass., Club d’Elf’s reputation
has unraveled among a handful of nearby cities along the East Coast.
The group’s most recent album entitled, As Above: Live at the Lizard Lounge,
was released in January of 2001. This double disc captures the live
performances of Rivard and Company in a venue, home to Club d’Elf’s biweekly
gig, beginning more than three years ago.

"The people at the club booked us for a night and that was how the band was
born," said Rivard. "I have a friend who books the gigs and he suggested
putting together an evening of improv-trance and drum-n-bass. We tried it out
on a Sunday night and have been playing there ever since."

Aside from Rivard, Club d’Elf features Erik Kerr on drums, Jere Faison on
dagomba drums and samples, Brahim Fribgane on oud, and Jerry Leake on tablas
and percussion, Tom Hall on tenor saxophone. Guest musicians include drummer
Kenwood Dennard, guitarists Reeves Gabrels, Duke Levine and Ian Kennedy, DJ
Logic, DJ C, keyboardists John Medeski and Alain Mallet, and tenor
saxophonists Joe Maneri and Eric Hipp, Tom Halter on trumpet, Mat Maneri on
electric violin, Dr. Didg on didjeridoo and Roberto Cassan on accordion.
"It’s really cool because we have so many different people involved and every
show is different," Rivard explained. "Every night we experience new things
and we get a large audience because the people there are attracted to
different personalities in the shows."

In addition to playing the bass, Rivard also serves as the conductor of the
group. As Above: Live at the Lizard Lounge—a hypnotic representation of the
mind’s interworkings. If both the biological and psychological functions of
the brain: gushes of Serotonin streaming through the blood; crackling synapse
sparks linking one neuron to the next; nerve rhythms and human desires
spawned in the hypothalamus; could be viewed against music—this album would
serve as the soundtrack.

"People like the record except for one guy who said we were the worst band in
the world," said Rivard. "It’s important to know that we are pissing people
off. I’m happy to know that some people are mad because that means I’m doing
something right."

Rivard’s many influences range from DJ Shadow, Fatboy Slim and Squarepusher
to Dave Holland and Dave Douglass to Moroccan and North African rhythms. In
fact, his most recent influences have come from both movies and television

"I like the dark cutting-edge comedies like Mr. Show," he said. "I would like
to be the musical version of shows like Monty Python and The Simpsons and
interpret those really fucked up, dark, twisted and surrealistic elements
through Club d’Elf"

Rivard explained the group’s peculiar name was coined from various forms of
inspiration; the psychedelic to the mythical to the musical.

"A man by the name of Terence McKenna who, is well-known figure in the
psychedelic drug scene was involved with plant based compounds and elf
entities in such hyperdementia," he explained. "When said fast, Club d’Elf
sounds like clubbed elf and so it has that dark and sinister Lord of the
Rings element and as a bass player the word elf is commonly used as an
acronym for extra low frequency. So as you can see, there are many elements
involved in the name."

Rivard continues to spread the word of Club d’Elf, focusing his publicity
towards college students, who dig the "grooved-out" trademark sounds of
Medeski, Martin and Wood; he also hopes to someday book a West Coast tour.
"It’s hard to get the other musicians to come on tour with me because they
are all in other bands," he explained "It’s much easier to book gigs in
unknown territory when you have someone like John Medeski with you because
MMW is known all throughout the country."

Club d’Elf is also nearing completion on a studio album—a 2-year project,
while continuing to gig on a weekly basis at the Lizard Lounge.
"It’s been slow getting the word out, we can’t really take out a half page ad
in Rolling Stone," Rivard concluded. "But soon enough, world dominion will be
ours. Did I say that out loud?"

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